Friday, January 20, 2017

Лека нощ от София

Thank you for all your prayers. The paperwork will proceed, and we will hope to have at least semi-regular Skype calls with "Owen". It was a good visit. I am looking forward to heading home, but had a good afternoon visiting some old friends and a new one.

S. Georgi, built by Constantine. My favorite church in town. I am sorry that I have never coincided with liturgy here.

 Sv. Sofia, built several times, but basically by Justinian I, about 550AD. Also sorry to have never coincided with a regular service, though I've seen parts of a wedding...

Cathedral Alexander Nevsky, the seat of the Patriarch of Bulgaria, built 1912. Truly magnificent, but very much of a different era than her older sisters. I failed to catch the golden dome in the above picture, so see below (photo by Harfang, courtesy Wikipedia, CC). I had not visited this one before, but was pleased to make it today in time for daily vespers. It takes a while to cense such a big church...

Thank you again for your prayers, God is very gracious.

For travelers by land, by sea, and by air,
for the sick and the suffering,
for captives and their salvation
let us pray to the Lord.

Господи, помилуй

In Christ,

Final visit of Trip 1

Today's visit was a pretty average-good one. "Owen" enjoyed some Clif bar, we listened to Brandenburg 1 and Italian Concerto in Fa maggiore, we looked at photos, we swung on the swing, and he sloshed some water when my guard was down.

One of the more kind nurses was with us today, and when "Owen" fed me back a bite of Clif bar, she noted that he never gives anybody his food. That was probably a good sign.

He didn't take to his monkey pack quite as much as I hoped - it wasn't the translator's satchel, after all. But he has it, it has his car, his album, his O-ball, and two Clif bars. I hope he isn't too sad when I don't come back this afternoon. And I hope he remembers me when I do come back in 4-6 months.

Now to go walk, pray to God at the cathedral, have dinner, and prepare to fly home tomorrow.

Thank you for your prayers, our God is good and glorious.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day 4, Visit 2

This afternoon's visit was just pleasant. "Owen" and I spent about 20 minutes just munching a Clif bar (chocolate chip again, I grabbed the bar blindly). Then we spent much time drinking out of my water bottle. In all this I have been trying to model and prompt signs, just "molya" ("please"), and "merci". He was mixing them up a bit, but he was trying to use them. Clif bars are good motivators, I guess.

After snacking, we played rolling the water bottle. He really wanted to play this with the nurse, and only grudgingly included me in the game. But we played in a triangle for a while, Him -> Nurse -> Me -> Him...

Then he wanted the translator and nurse to help him with drinks (they don't wave your hands around all weird, or something). That's when he managed to slosh. That's when sloshing became registered in his mind as "new best game", and that's when I put away the bottle. That prompted a bit of frustration and a walk to the door, but then we made up and played swinging for the rest of the time. Today was Bach. I understand. Bach is orderly. Order is good.

We actually played to the end of the visit! One more tomorrow, then ciao for now...

Thank you for your prayers,

Day 4, Visit 1, Photo 2

The visa photo came out much better today. He is a handsome fellow, when he wants to stay in one place.

The Clif bar was a hit (chocolate chip, of course). It made waiting 20 minutes in the car for the photos to print a fun time, not misery. The play visit was good: we stuffed the photos in his album (and he worked on tearing out a page), we tried peek-a-boo (not much traction), we walked around a bit, we played with the translator's satchel (I will have to get "Owen" one for the trip home - I think it's a being-big badge - I will give him his monkey backpack with all the keepsakes tomorrow, perhaps that will suffice). We'll try a peanut-butter Clif bar this afternoon, and work on finding good games. Truly, though, I get the feeling that "Owen" just wants to be out and doing stuff. We'll need to spend a lot of time working on the back yard before he comes home...

Another highlight of the visit was poop! I had observed some effort-face and a bit of smell, and very soon "Owen" clearly directed my hand to the appropriate "diaper-check" position on the back of his waistband. Yep, sure enough. The nurse took him for a change (yeah, I know, I could have pushed to do the change, but we'll get there when we get there), and on the way back, he saw lunch carts. That was the end of the visit. I'll see him again in an hour or so, and am praying for another good (though sadly, penultimate) visit. But the nurse today was very sweat, and she showed me a photo of her daughter in what looked like traditional dancing costume. She was very glad to see our family picture and the Good Shepherd that Aunt Cathy sent.

I just looked it up, and his name day is 27 December, which was my parents' anniversary, so we'll have more good things to celebrate in Christmastide.

Thank you for your prayers,

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day 3, Visit 2

The laundry came out fine. The visa photo didn't. So we get to have another trip tomorrow.

The afternoon visit was not stupendous. I am always happy to see "Owen", but I don't have quite the knack for sustaining his attention (perhaps impossible), and my bag of tricks is now pretty played out. But tomorrow I will bring a Clif bar. I realize that I have a play-skills gap, and have a hard time being silly with kids - probably an aspect of pride that needs to be mortified - but I don't know many games that don't involve some kind of skill AND are appropriate​ for an 18kg, 1.1m child (because they are mostly aimed at our baby).

That's all for now, thanks for praying, good night.

In Christ,

Day 3, Visit 1

Today we got visa photos - or at least, I hope, one usable photo. "Owen" did not much want to sit still in a strange place surrounded by odd people with clicking machini and SO many pieces of paper to grab. But all went well, and he liked the ride in the truck, so that may bode well. But airplanes are a lot bigger inside than even a four-door Hilux. We'll see.

Playtime today was mostly Ravel (Bolero wasn't magic, but it seemed as interesting as anything else, and Ma Mere l'Oye was well-recieved; it's unclear if he likes Vivaldi, or just swinging while listening to Vivaldi. He likes to make noises on the radiator grille, and makes my hand make bigger noises. My ring on the grille is a favorite. Velcro is a favorite. We spent lots of time taking his shoes off and playing the Velcro, then putting them on. Seems like sensory toys are the right speed - the O-ball is good, the wooden car is meh, the Magna-Doodle may as well be on another planet.

He ate lunch with me, and we found a balance between him using the spoon (and jamming big bites) and me helping (with small bites). He didn't really need the help, but he liked it. He kept some of the chicken in his mouth for a long time, but left food in his dishes when he was full, so it seems to be sensory, not hoarding.

It was good to see his Baba today. He is clearly attached to her, and she is attached to him. This is very encouraging. Seeing happy bonds gives much hope that happy bonds can grow in time. She liked to see photos of the family and the boys' room, and she remembered Ana. She was also appreciative of Theo's chocolate.

It's nice to be at the apartment - I can make potatoes and eggs for breakfast. Today I topped them with goat yoghurt, sausage, white cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I continue to eat garlic,  and drink ginger tea, and am not feeling any worse. It helps that the coffee is instant-granules, as I don't care to drink more than two cups of that in any given day (but it's every bit as good as Folger's in the big red can...for what that's worth; I guess I miss good coffee). So I mince ginger and put hot water on it, and pray for avoiding the cold. My poor translator has it for sure.

Laundry should be done soon. It's a tidy little all-in-one, we'll see how it performs.
Update - it wasn't an all-in-one, it was just a washer that had lots of options. But now the clothes are drying on a laundry rack over the heater. Oh well, it should work fine. 

Thank you for your prayers. Please remember Mama and the kiddos, now it's off to visit 2 for the day.

In Christ, who is our life,

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Day 2, Visit 2


Today's second visit was nice. "Owen" had a bit of a biting-the-cushy-rails time when he was mad about not being allowed to play with the Christmas toys, but we recovered. Today we listened to Italian Concerto all the way through, and Violin Concerto in Em (I think, the site was Italian). He also spent time chewing over the picture of Mama & Papa, which (according to Maurice Sendak) is a great compliment.

Much time this evening was spent finding open-access music that wasn't Bach. I love Bach. But I also love Carnival of the Animals, Pictures at an Exhibition, Ma Mere l'Oye, Bolero (I'm especially curious about his reaction to this one - if you know it, you'll know why), and some Palestrina. And more Bach (Christ lag in Todesbanden, anyone?). And some Vivaldi and Purcell, to round out the week. We'll see what he likes.

Oh, and I just found some Cape Breton sets - grand fine stuff. I know Ana would like it, so here's hoping.

Also, I just got a small mission - see if I can find anything out about "Paul". So, we'll see.

And I keep drinking ginger+lemon+salt in hot water and eating raw garlic. They're starting to get sick at home, so I wish to be fortified. Plus, my poor translator is getting sick, too. Your prayers for health and endurance are appreciated!

In Christ,

Day 2, Visit 1


"Owen" eats a banana

Today was the social worker observation visit, which I inferred from its similarity to last time with Ana - way too many people in the room, talking loudly. My translator mentioned it on the way out - 'Oh, I should have told you. That was the child protection officer.'  Indeed.

But the visit went well - many fewer door attempts today, and I was able to let the nurse block many of them. "Owen" was interested in playing, ate a picture of Small Porgies (recoverable), and chewed some on Christ the Good Shepherd, which Aunt Cathy assures us is what kids are supposed to do. I mean, I guess Eucharist and all that.

"Owen" let me swing him on the play swing for a while, which was good. Most of the time, my pocket was playing lo-fi public-domain Bach that I found online. We listened to Brandenburg 1, and to the first two movements of the Italian concerto in F. This seemed to be well-received, and I added Violin Concerto in E just now. Maybe I will make some more playlists if I can get my phone to cooperate and find good stuff.

The nurse brought a banana, which seemed to be a rare treat. He wanted to eat the peel. He stuffs. He wants to have his hands on the food. But he chewed and swallowed.  My handkerchief saw a deal of duty. Tomorrow I am supposed to be able to observe/help feed lunch.

But the visit went about 50 minutes, until "Owen" was determined on the door, and we said Ciao. I think it was productive. Though he's very willing to try to get any adult to play with him, he seemed content to be redirected to me most of the time.

Now I have a drink of ginger, lemon, and salt, since the translator is sick, and I feel like I may be getting it. I've popped two cloves of garlic already, and have lots. So maybe you can pray that we stay healthy over here. And that Mama and the kiddos don't get sick, in case this is an AZ bug.

And my head is healing. Big scab, but behind the hairline, so not very gruesome. Hopefully vespers tonight - the apartment is two klicks from the church, but the driver says he will drop me off and pick me up. Perhaps he will come, too - he is "just regular Christian", which is funny to hear, since in America (from an adult, anyway) it is often an evasion because a) you don't go to church, or b) you're ashamed of belonging to some oddball fringe group and don't want to explain. Here it means Orthodox, and possibly (a) as well.

Thank you for your prayers. Please keep it up. God is the Lord and has appeared unto us, granting the world the great mercy!

In Christ,

The more it snows
the more it goes
the more it goes
on snowing.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day 1, Visit 2

The second visit went well for the first 40 minutes, then "Owen" got bored. I was insufficiently clear; phrases like "He's worn out now" don't register with non-native speakers. Nothing bad happened, but "Owen" spent most of the last 20 minutes sidling towards the door, trying it, and being gently redirected. The translator had explained that the Baba comes at 4:30 - I thought we were waiting, so I only said the ineffective phrase twice. Now I am reminded to be clear and direct. I don't want visits to be interminable captivity in an overstimulating playroom, and I believe we are only required by law to have one hour each day. I cherish the time, but he seems big enough to know when he's done, and I wish to respect that as reasonably as I can.

All in all, "Owen" seems well, and seems to be well liked. But the presence of the Christmas-donation toys in the room (which are verboten) is not helpful. Oh well.

He seemed more interested in me, and we walked around the playroom a number of times, him tugging my hand if he wanted to me hurry up, me tugging his hand if he started fidgeting with mini blinds. He was responsive to this level of redirection, which is good. The afternoon nurse was not as well beloved as the morning nurse, but it was fine.

Now I've eaten supper, whacked my head on an open cabinet door (drawing blood - laminate corner!), and am about to put together the last section of my Thermo lesson for my dutiful students who are doubtless ready and waiting to see when Thursday's lecture finale will post early so they can watch...

Thank you for your prayers, and please also remember the Glewwe family as they travel next week - it's homecoming with a very delicate girl, many days of kicking around Sofia, and a long flight.

Please keep Mama and the kiddos in your prayers.
In Christ,

Visit 1

I wish that I could post photos of the visit, but I can't. It was a delight to see "Owen" again after about two and a half years. He is very verbally receptive, still no expressive language, and very energetic (hyper was the word Toni used...). The play room at DMS-3A is much improved, and really quite astounding. If I had to design a playroom, it might have looked like that.

But, it's the visit playroom (though it was so new, I didn't have a sense of whether the kids use it regularly), and it was a lot for "Owen" to take in, so he was somewhat overwhelmed - ball pits do that.

However, I sat and talked and watched and tossed an O-ball around with him a bit. I have so little Bulgarian that I can't say much to him, but I can read some from his face. He wasn't much interested in me until the nurse stepped out for a bit, then he warmed up and tried to make me open the translator's water bottle to get him a drink. I offered him mine, but he was quite insistent on the crackly disposable one, and used hand-over-hand to show me what he wanted me to do - this was pretty great. He's very able to communicate his desires. The nurse brought him a tin of water to drink, which he did by himself, using two hands, with minimal spilling (the bouncing induced by lots of stimulation I suppose).

Speaking of stimulus, he appears to have a few of the "standard" institutional stims, like playing with clothing, occasional head bonking (on the soft rail of the play area, and not violent), and chewing (on the same rail). Some kind of mouth-toy will probably be a helpful transitional object.

He's on 3 meds, and I got the BLG-pronounced names, but I need to get an actual med sheet before I go. The report on his self-feeding was good (and his drinking was fine). Tomorrow I have asked to be with him at a mealtime, either to help (if needed) or observe.

He has some gait issues, but nothing looks terrible, just like a boy who hasn't had enough outdoor time and running. He was mildly interested in photos of the kids, but has no reference for rabbits (pictured with Took & Porgies). He can sit on the toilet, but uses diapers due to signaling issues - something we presently understand from Porgies... who doesn't use diapers, and just occasionally uses the floor if he's too focused. He'll have a friend...

Praise God, they were happy to have two visits per day, so we return in about 40min. Now I am recording thermo lectures in the flat we have rented, which is very nice (once you are inside). Photos below.

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for he is good, alleluia, for his mercy endures forever and ever, alleluia.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Warnings that could have happened

...but have not yet:

"We respectfully request that guests refrain from eating bread over the lavatory sinks."

"Will the party whose toiletry bag is labeled 'Acorn Squash' please report for additional screening."

"Will the tall man in row 33 please allow the man in front of him to recline?"

"Church closing, you please go now bye bye OK?" (Well, this one did happen...)

On the Ground

I am here.

The here on the way to there.

The jet-birds flew far and fast. The weather is fair and cold. My shoes are wet, but I deserve it. Not wet through. And crumbs of brown bread fall on my computer.

I have devoured Michael O'Brien's The Island of the World en route. I do not regret it, but I regret it. I can never ride the same currents in the same way again, and they were wonderful. But there are always new currents to ride. He is a strange one. But it is a good tale.

Now I am at Budapest again - the hotel, not the city. And it is lunchtime - or early dinner - or whatever you call the last meal of a day that will end up being about twenty-eight hours long, eaten at 15:30 local time.
My shoes are wet because of walking. As soon as I put my bags in my room. To Sveta Sofia. By a long cut. Then to the dm for a shaver, and Billa for dinner: two sausages, apple, cucumber, mlyako, and the aforesaid bread. Time to dry the shoes a bit, then go back for vespers at Sv. Sofia at 5pm.

And we now have a Bulgarian Molitvenik. I will be combing it for good things for "Owen". So far I've found the Lord's Prayer and the Trisagion. I still have malka balgarski.

Please pray that I would get rest, that "Owen" and I would hit it off tomorrow, for Mama and the kiddos in the States, and for God's mercy through the hands of His people upon orphans and widows, of whom there are many in the world now.

Gospodi, pomiloyi - Lord, have mercy!
In Christ,